- Reverence a mixture of admiration and awe.
- Faculty of reverence innate; but needs cultivating.
- Misplaced reverence.
- We must reverence another’s reverence.
- Reverence due only to objects worthy of reverence.
Reverence is mixed up with admiration and awe or wonder. We can admire without wonder or awe, as when we admire a pretty garden or a Kashmiri silk shawl. We can feel awe, too, without admiration, as at the power of a tyrant or the cruelty of a tiger. But when we revere a person or thing, we both fear and admire or even love. So we reverence Allah; for we admire and love Him as perfect goodness, yet we feel awe at His infinite power and greatness.
Reverence is innate in all human beings. But it needs to be cultivated and guided. The teaching of reverence should form an essential part of every child’s education. Children are naturally great hero-lovers; and one way of teaching them reverence is to put before them for their love heroes who are worthy of their respect, admiration and imitation. This can be done by means of stories of heroic actions and great deeds, and the examples of good and great men.
Most people revere something or someone. But their reverence is often misplaced. They reverence the wrong things. The savage kneeling down in awe to worship some ugly idol or stone, is full of reverence; but he is paying reverence to what is unworthy of reverence. Yet even he, in his ignorance, is groping after some being whom he can rightly worship.
At the same time we have no right to sneer at the poor ignorant savage, provided his reverence is sincere. Mark Twain tells with disgust a story of a Yankee, who was shown a lamp burning in a temple in Burma. The priest told him with awe that the lamp ahd never been extinguished for hundreds of years. “Is that so?” said the Yankee; “well, I guess it’s out now”; and he stooped down and blew it out. This led Mark Twain to remark that, “True reverence is the reverencing of other people’s reverence”. If we did this always, there would be more charity and tolerance in the world.
We must learn to give reverence where reverence is due first to God, then all real goodness, nobility and heroism in man. And we must learn to despise all that is not worthy of our reverence, such as mere wealth, worldly success due to trickery, the accident of noble birth, or power used ill. To reverence a man merely because he is rich or powerful is to be no better than the savage worshipping an idol.